For Tomas Satoransky, It's Been a Long Journey From Prague to D.C. | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

For Tomas Satoransky, It’s Been a Long Journey From Prague to D.C.

By
Updated: February 25, 2018

[Tomas Satoransky with Ken Scalabroni, his former USK Prague “A” team coach, at Satoransky’s camp last summer. Photo: Lukas Kuba]

Ken Scalabroni has had a difficult few weeks. “I’ve been losing sleep lately,” he explained. “Here in Prague the time difference between Europe and the U.S.A. forces me to stay up really late to be able to follow the Wizards games. My co-workers can tell just by looking at me that the Wizards probably had a game the night before.”

Ken is not your average Wizards fan living abroad. He has a very specific connection to the team. Scalabroni, an American basketball coach living in the Czech Republic, coached the USK Prague “A” team in the Czech National Basketball League when a 15-year-old Tomas Satoransky joined the squad back in 2006.

Ken has followed Tomas’ career closely and agreed to share some memories of Tomas’ tenure with his team, as well as his observations from all those late nights watching Satoransky on the Wizards.

As Ken explains via email, Tomas arrived in Prague with high expectations:

“The club management informed me that a pretty good prospect would be joining the team, that he was 15 years old and that he was one of the biggest young prospects in Europe. If you coach long enough you will hear that statement a thousand times over—and a lot of times it’s hyperbole. That kind of description can really put young players under a lot of pressure to live up to and exceed expectations.”

Turns out, Tomas was not the average 15-year-old:

“He came to me on the first day of practice, shook my hand and introduced himself and from that day on until he left the club he had a laser focus of where he was heading and what he wanted to be. He told me he would play in the Spanish ACB league and from there he would play in the NBA.”

Scalabroni quickly learned that Satoransky’s ambitions were more than just talk:

 “I realized after coaching Tomas for a few weeks that nothing was going to stop him from reaching his goals and getting him to be patient would be a monumental task. He was a 15-year-old boy, fearless, practicing against men and playing against men in the Czech [NBL] league.”

After a recent Wizards’ practice, I shared Scalabroni’s comments with Satoransky and he corroborated Ken’s first impression, “I was very foolish too back then,” Satoransky chuckled.

“I was always hyperactive at the practices. I remember from those years always trying to dunk after or before every practice. I don’t do that anymore. I have no energy for that, but I think they saw me kind of like that being active, being still like a kid, being with confidence. I think back then I was dreaming about playing in the NBA here, so it’s kind of special.”

Satoransky believes playing against older competition with USK Prague helped him mature much faster and gave him a greater understanding of the game. He also thinks it helped to play for an American coach and credits Scalabroni with giving him a new perspective on the game.

When you read Scalabroni’s description of Satoransky as a player at age 15, it sounds exactly like the player Wizards fans have watched develop the last two seasons:

“The best thing about him was he understood the real essence of the game and the meaning of team. He was a great teammate, unselfish to a fault, and made everyone around him better. He was no different than any player in regards to ups and downs—all players go through them, that’s how you learn to grow as a player and person. His work ethic was so strong that keeping him out of the gym for any kind of rest and recovery was almost torture for him.”

[Photo: fotohacko.cz]

Even though Scalabroni has not coached Satoransky for nine years, he still watches his NBA games with a coaches’ eye. Last year he noticed Tomas was not playing with enough aggression:

“The biggest improvement I see when he plays is he is not hesitating like in his rookie season. Hesitant players are non-players. He is attacking with confidence, defending aggressively and growing as a player.”

Part of Tomas’ hesitation last year may have stemmed from his lack of minutes.

“The hardest part of the transition from Europe to the NBA is the harsh reality of the bench,” Ken wrote. “To go from running the high powered offense for Barcelona as the starter and extended arm of the coach to basically a role player off the bench, having to accept DNP-CDs, is tough to handle.”

Ken praised Satoransky’s perseverance after a difficult rookie year. Instead of pouting, Tomas worked even harder in the off-season and when John Wall’s injury opened the door, Satoransky kicked it down. As Ken explains, his recent stellar play is the culmination of years of hard work:

“Tomas’ performance the last nine games as the starting point guard have been basically the perfect storm of when opportunity presents itself and then being ready to be productive and make the most of the opportunity.”

For the first time in his NBA career, Tomas is playing consistent minutes. With that opportunity comes the chance to prove to himself—and the rest of the league—that he belongs. Satoransky remarked that his confidence grows with every positive performance: “I think having a good game or having a good impact on the game gives you that kind of confidence to not hesitate on some of the plays.”

For a pass-first point guard like Tomas, there is a delicate balance between aggression and unselfishness. Tomas said he hears the calls for him to shoot more and he is trying to pick and choose his spots:

“Sometimes maybe it looks like passing too much but the truth is, those minutes I’ve been playing gave me the confidence that I do more on the court and I think I have more courage and aggression.”

Scalabroni agrees: “His game as a pass-first point guard has meshed well with the abundance of scorers on the Wizards team. At the same time he is scoring when he is supposed to rather than when he wants to.”

Tomas has now started eleven games in place of Wall. The Wizards are 8-3. The rest of the NBA world may be shocked, but Ken isn’t: “As he gains more experience and opportunity his performance is not really surprising to me. It’s exactly what he has always expected of himself.”

There’s only one problem, according to Scalabroni: “The better he plays and the more the Wizards win the less we all sleep here in Prague.”

Tomas sympathizes with the lack of sleep and he appreciates everyone’s support. “It’s great to hear that, to be honest,” Tomas explained. “That’s why you do it, for the people who love the game, because you have the passion and if you see people sharing that with you that makes you very happy.”

Satoransky hopes his stint in the starting lineup will make it easier for his fellow countrymen to watch him play: “Obviously if you are watching the game at 1 a.m., 2 a.m. and I don’t play until the second quarter, you fall asleep.”

If Tomas keeps playing the way he has, no one will be complaining about staying up a little while longer to watch the Wizards.

[Special thanks to Lukas Kuba, TAI’s Czech correspondent since 2011, for putting together the interview with Ken Scalabroni. Lukas’s work can be found on twitter @Luke_Mellow.]

[Photo: fotohacko.cz]

[Photo: fotohacko.cz]

Adam Rubin on EmailAdam Rubin on Twitter
Adam Rubin
Reporter / Writer at TAI
Adam grew up in the D.C. area and has been a Washington Bullets fan for over 25 years. He will not refer to the franchise as anything other than the Bullets unless required to do so by Truth About It editorial standards. Adam spent many nights at the Capital Centre in the ‘90s where he witnessed such things as Michael Jordan’s “LaBradford Smith game,” the inexcusable under-usage of Gheorghe Muresan’s unstoppable post moves, and the basketball stylings of Ledell Eackles.